Fatal car accidents are, regretfully, a common occurrence in Israel. About 400 men, women and children - more than one per day - are killed every year in collisions or run over on intercity highways and city streets. Every such accident is shocking, but it was not just by chance that the death of Meital Ahronson in Tel Aviv early Friday morning was particularly shocking. Her killing, which cannot be called an accident, was preventable. There is a guilty party: the driver of the SUV who sped through a red light and into a crosswalk; and there is a responsible party: the Israel Police.
Drunk driving has turned in recent years into a plague. Revelers go out to clubs, and then get behind the wheel and kill themselves or others. That is why teams of police are supposed to check suspicious drivers and ensure they are not drunk. Drivers who fail the test are supposed to lose their licenses on the spot.
But on that night, at the center of Tel Aviv nightlife in the port area, the police did their work carelessly and unprofessionally. They did not impound the key of the driver whom they thought was drunk, and allowed his friends to flee in the car. They did not call in reinforcements and no roadblocks were set up. Within 10 minutes Meital Ahronson fell victim to a hit-and-run.
If the fleeing car had been carrying a Palestinian, possibly on the way to a terror attack, the entire police force would have been called out instantly, along with the Shin Bet security service and other forces. They would have put into action the special procedures for a terrorist attack warning and roadblocks would have been set up all over the region, intelligence officers and their computers would have been frantically figuring out the identities of those involved, and the commanders would never have let up until the fugitives were captured. Everything would have been done, as everyone knows, to prevent an attack on the innocent. But that is exactly the same result of the wild behavior on the roads, which the police treat leniently.
Police Commissioner David Cohen, for reasons known only to himself, has not appointed an officer to investigate the matter and has not demanded that the Tel Aviv District, whose traffic police were operating that night in the port area, examine what happened and why. Even without an investigation and a report one basic fact is clear: The police officers lacked professionalism, whether because they personally were not capable, or the procedures were not sufficiently strict for such events. This time you cannot complain that the police is investigating itself - this time it is not even doing that, even though the problem is not restricted to a single district or division. The problem affects the entire police force, including the national headquarters and the man at its head.
For some reason we have not heard the voice of Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who takes almost every opportunity to speak out on almost everything. The escape of rapist Benny Sela, in the same district but under the previous commander, encouraged Dichter to appoint a committee of inquiry, even though that event was only embarrassing and not fatal.
Meital Ahronson's death has left Dichter silent. Civilian oversight of the police under his tenure is unsatisfactory. If Israeli citizens want a more professional police force, they will never get it from their elected leaders who are supposed to represent them vis-a-vis the police.
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